Live for the Line

Dec 10, 2022

In his books The Treasure Principle and Money, Possessions, and Eternity, author Randy Alcorn describes our lives in two phases: a dot and a line. The dot represents our time on Earth. From the dot extends a line that goes on forever and represents eternity in Heaven. While we’re currently living in the dot, we should be living for the line.

Our time on Earth is short.

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”‭ - ‭James‬ ‭4:14‬ ‭NIV‬.

What we do in our brief life on Earth will have consequences on our eternal life in Heaven. This should massively impact the way we live our lives! Orienting our lives around the 80 or so years we have on Earth is foolish. Adopting an eternal perspective is wise, not only because we’ll be setting ourselves up for a better eternity, but because living with an eternal perspective actually leads to enjoying the “good life” in your time on Earth today!

So what does it actually mean to live for the line? According to Randy Alcorn in The Treasure Principle, “The person who lives for the dot lives for treasures on Earth that rot and rust. The person who lives for the line lives for treasures in Heaven that will last forever. Giving is living for the line.”

There are many verses in the Bible that talk about storing up treasures is Heaven. Two of my favorites are in Matthew 6 (Jesus speaking at the Sermon on the Mount) and 1 Timothy 6 (Paul writing to the church in Ephesus).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” - ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” - ‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭6:17-19‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

Treasures on earth are temporary. Treasures in heaven are eternal. How do we store up treasure in heaven? Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6. Do good. Be rich in good deeds. Be generous. Be willing to share. This is how you “lay up” treasure for the “coming age” (i.e. Heaven).

It’s important not to miss the last line in this teaching: “so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” Many people think the “good life” consists of making a lot of money, owning a big house, and driving nice cars. This is what our culture defines as the “good life.” If you scroll on social media for five minutes or watch tv and see the commercials, this message is clear. The problem with that message is that it’s wrong. None of those things will make you happy.

The real way to experience the “good life” or what Paul refers to as the “life that is truly life” is to be generous. In addition to this being well documented throughout the Bible, it is also well documented in social science.

A great book on the research and science of generosity is The Paradox of Generosity by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson. Smith and Davidson state, “Those who give, receive back in turn. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own standing. In letting go of some of what we own, we better secure our own lives. By giving ourselves away, we ourselves move toward flourishing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact.“

Smith and Davidson’s extensive research reveals that, “Giving money, volunteering, being relationally generous, being a generous neighbor and friend, and personally valuing the importance of being a generous person are all significantly, positively correlated with greater personal happiness, physical health, a stronger sense of purpose in life, avoidance of symptoms of depression, and a greater interest in personal growth.”

Not only does being generous lead to storing up treasures in Heaven, but it leads to you experiencing the “good life” today.

This idea of living for the line has had a big impact on me personally. So much so, that I have a tattoo of a dot and a line wrapped around my forearm! It’s also part of the Generous Steward blog’s logo. As a Type A, Enneagram 1 personality, I tend to look at things from a logical, rational, and analytical perspective. I can try and maximize my earthly treasures (money, possessions, happiness, etc.) for the next 80 years, or I can use the next 80 years to maximize my treasures in heaven that I can enjoy for the next 80 million years. The logical choice is clear for me.

This doesn’t mean I give away 100% of my income and live on bread and water. I love to travel and there are a lot of things that I’m happy to spend my money on and enjoy. God want us to enjoy his blessings. But it does mean that I try and be intentional about my purchases. It’s all about balance. I’m only in the beginning stages of my journey of generosity and am excited to see how that develops over the years.

“If we understand what Scripture says about how giving touches lives for eternity, stores treasures for us in Heaven, and brings us great happiness here and now, we’ll realize there’s no greater privilege than to live lives of overflowing love and joyful generosity.” - Randy Alcorn

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